Pro Football Weekly editors Eric Edholm and Kyle Nabors rank the top Chicago Bears coaches of all-time.
Nabors: It wasn't always like this. The Bears used to be something. A team that could at least occasionally make Chicago proud on the national stage. Now, with Matt Nagy, they're on their third coach in five years. The past two, Marc Trestman and John Fox, won't be getting statues outside Halas Hall anytime soon. But let's look at that bright side, Eric. Who are the top three Bears coaches in franchise history?
Edholm: That's too bad, by the way — I really do think Trestman has a statue-made countenance. OK, so No. 1 is not up for debate, of course. That's the guy they have on the side of the uniform — GSH. After that, there's a debate, but I am not sure it's much of one. It's really hard for me to properly judge the other George Halas-era coaches, such as Hunk Anderson and Luke Johnsos, who took over for Papa Bear when he went to serve in the war. So for me, they are out of the discussion, along with Paddy Driscoll, who took over after Halas finally stepped down. Mike Ditka is No. 2 because he won a Super Bowl, won 63 percent of his games and won Coach of the Year multiple times. And three kind of has to be Lovie Smith, doesn't it?
Nabors: I don't think there's any debate that Halas is easily No. 1, but I'm not completely sold on Ditka at No. 2. A terrific defensive coordinator in Buddy Ryan and a roster loaded with Hall of Fame talent goes a long way. Lovie Smith, on the other hand, found a way to win 11 games in his second season with Kyle Orton at quarterback.
Edholm: I admit I did not expect that response! I'd also argue that Smith's staff — with Ron Rivera (before Lovie threw him under the bus), Harry Hiestand (welcome back!) and Dave Toub (starting to think he'll never get a head-coaching job) — deserves a little praise, too. To your point, Ditka didn't choose Buddy; the old man did. But Ditka also made it work amid all the strife and chaos and did go 37-10 the three regular seasons after Ryan left, mostly without Jim McMahon healthy. That record was better than any three-year period Smith ever achieved. But I will admit that Smith getting fired when he did was a joke. Do we dare even try to pick No. 4 on this list, or is that just too cruel?
Nabors: You're right on the Ditka-Smith debate. I probably just hold too much of a grudge against Ditka with some fans still pining for the glory days of the 80s. But after that? Man, does it get ugly quickly. We've already named two of three Bears coaches to be named Pro Football Weekly's Coach of the Year. Care to take a stab at the third name?
Edholm: Wow, great question. I am going to guess either Dave Wannstedt in 1994 or Dick Jauron in 2001. I actually think Jauron was the better head coach, at least as far as their Bears tenures were concerned. Wanny did win a lot in Miami with guys like Jay Fielder at QB. But to this day I'll never know how Jauron won 13 games with that passing game that year.
Nabors: Dick Jauron is your winner in 2001 with a big assist to Mike Brown and the rest of the defense. And you're not kidding. The passing game was horrific that season. Though, watching Hugh Douglas intentionally drive Jim Miller's shoulder into the ground during the Divisional Round still stands out as an exceptionally obvious cheap shot. But if I'm choosing between Jauron and Wannstedt at No. 4, I'd go with the latter.
Edholm: Maybe when we do this exercise in 7-8 years, Nagy will surpass both of them and be nipping at Smith's heels. Or, worst case, he'll be Lovie's successor at Illinois. Womp womp.